The DC Extended Universe continues to grow, with WB reportedly moving forward with a Batgirl movie to be written and directed by Joss Whedon. Whatever your thoughts on the DCEU, that’s a pretty exciting prospect.
Entertainment Weekly is also reporting that the movie will draw heavily from DC’s New 52 Batgirl comics, specifically those written by Gail Simone. That gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect from the new film in terms of tone and subject matter. If you’re not familiar with Simone’s Batgirl run, here are five ways her work could wind up inspiring the new movie.
The New 52 offered a drastically different status quo for Barbara Gordon. Ever since being shot by Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke, Barbara had been left paralyzed and unable to continue as Batgirl. Instead, she traded in her cape and cowl for a computer, becoming a skilled hacker known across the superhero community as Oracle.
That all changed when Simone’s Batgirl run began. As the series opened, Barbara had recently overcome her paralysis and was settling back into her old role as Batgirl. Readers eventually learned that Babs underwent highly experimental surgery involving a spinal implant that restored function to her shattered spinal cord. Simone focused a great deal on the difficult uphill battle Babs faced in reclaiming her mantle. She had to re-learn how to use her own body and become the skilled gymnast and martial artist she once was.
She also dealt with severe PTSD and survivor’s guilt due to the lingering trauma from Joker’s attack. That proved especially difficult when dealing with gun-toting criminals, as Barbara’s subconscious instinctively reacted to the threat of being shot again. Over the course of Simone’s three-year run, Barbara slowly reclaimed her power and conquered the demons of her past. The book serves as a metaphor for overcoming trauma, be it physical violence, sexual assault or profound loss.
That offers a unique chance for the Batgirl movie to both paint Barbara Gordon as an unsure hero still re-learning the ropes while also reflecting the years of established Bat-family history that exist in the DCEU. The movie can avoid telling a cookie-cutter origin story yet still focus on Batgirl as an underdog hero trying to establish her reputation in Gotham City.
With the movie drawing on Simone’s Batgirl run, we have to imagine the Joker will have some role to play. After all, he’s the villain that ruined her life and sparked her transformation from Batgirl to Oracle, and he’s the face of the psychological demon tormenting her as she tries to become Batgirl once more.
Joker appeared at one point in Simone’s run as the series tied into the larger “Death of the Family” crossover. That storyline saw Joker return to Gotham after a long absence, determined to eliminate Batman‘s sidekicks and prove to the Dark Knight that he’s better off alone. The sidekicks survived, but the fabric of the Bat-family was severely damaged. Batgirl herself had to deal with the strain of confronting the man who ruined her life and seeing her mother dragged into the Clown Prince of Crime’s twisted games.
We don’t know that the Batgirl movie will or even should rely on Joker as its main villain. Batman’s rogues gallery is far too rich to keep going back to the same well. But it does make sense to include Joker in some capacity, even if only via flashback. Batman v Superman hinted at a dramatic showdown between Batman and Joker years before, one that apparently left Robin dead (most likely Jason Todd). We could see Barbara being another victim of that confrontation. The important thing is to keep the focus on Barbara’s fight to move past her demons and reclaim the mantle of Batgirl.
There are other villains in Simone’s Batgirl run that the movie could also pull from if the goal is to avoid overusing Joker in the DCEU. There’s the Ventriloquist, who has yet to appear in any live-action DC movie. The traditional version of the Ventriloquist, Albert Wesker, is a timid man who exhibits a homicidal split personality that expresses itself through a ventriloquist’s doll named Scarface. Despite his outwardly comical appearance, the Ventriloquist has racked up quite a body count and tends to be one of the major players in Gotham’s criminal underworld.
Simone introduced a new version of the Ventriloquist named Shauna Belzer. This villain is even more psychologically damaged than Wesker, having been subjected to a childhood of abuse at her brother’s hands and now carrying around a dummy named after him. This Ventriloquist also has telekinetic powers, which would make her more of a physical challenge to Batgirl in the movie.
Another option is to draw from the one-shot special Batgirl: Futures End and focus on Bane as the main villain. Futures End offered a glimpse of a possible future for Barbara Gordon, one where she transformed into a hulking vigilante called La Bete Noire and supervised a team of new Batgirls in her ongoing quest to destroy Gotham’s criminal cartels. She even managed to defeat Bane in one-on-one combat, something Batman himself is hard-pressed to do on his best day.
The movie would have to draw from Futures End very loosely (and most likely ignore the whole multiple Batgirls thing entirely), but including Bane does offer some interesting possibilities. Given the villain’s penchant for breaking backs, we could see the DCEU subverting expectations by making him responsible for Barbara’s paralysis, not Joker. The movie could also focus on Venom, the super-steroid that fuel’s Bane’s strength. Perhaps Barbara will herself turn to Venom as she struggles to restore her body, forcing her to deal with the crippling addiction that comes with the drug and giving her even more hurdles to overcome.